'My Neighbor Totoro' Set as First Studio Ghibli Release in China

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'My Neighbor Totoro'

If the release of a restored version of Hayao Miyazaki's anime classic is successful, Studio Ghibli plans further theatrical bows in the Middle Kingdom.

Studio Ghibli films look set to get their first full theatrical release in China, beginning with Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro), which is celebrating 30 years since it bowed in Japan.

"We've already sold the rights to My Neighbor Totoro to our Chinese partner SCLA, but there are various processes they have to go through to release it in China; it's in their hands now," a spokesperson for Studio Ghibli's foreign sales department told The Hollywood Reporter.

The film, which has recently been digitally restored, is set to be released toward the end of this year. The Chinese version will feature leading local actors dubbing the characters' voices, according to the Mtime Chinese entertainment news site.

My Neighbor Totoro took only around $6 million at the Japanese box office when it was released in 1998, but was critically acclaimed and has since become a cult favorite among anime fans and a huge merchandise franchise for Studio Ghibli.

If the My Neighbor Totoro release is successful, Studio Ghibli plans to bow other classics from their back catalog in China. This year, for example, is also the 10th anniversary of Miyazaki's Ponyo.

Miyazaki, 77, is currently working on what he insists will be his last feature, which is expected to take another two or three years to complete.